Many thanks for all of your votes on this year’s Proms premières. Having closed the polls yesterday, i’ve crunched the numbers a few different ways and here’s a summary of what you, my esteemed readers, had to say about this year’s offerings.
Worst New Work
Eric Whitacre – Deep Field
How could i agree more? There are bad pieces and there are downright disgusting pieces, and this bombastic monstrosity is entirely the latter. A large-scale assemblage comprising specimens of detritus from the reject bins of assorted third-rate film composers (and Whitacre himself), puffed up with almost infinite quantities of pretentious hot air, Deep Field plumbs new depths of imaginative vacuum and technical incompetence.
Jonathan Newman – Blow It Up, Start Again
Joanna Lee – Hammer of Solitude
Anna Meredith – Smatter Hauler
In my view, this is a little harsh on Joanna Lee’s piece; although somewhat lacking in subtlety, i rather liked the darkness that seemed to pervade throughout, but you clearly felt otherwise. As for the other two, i’m with you all the way. Newman’s crashbang fiasco made bluffing threats to the system only then to adhere obediently to its most primitive tenets, while Meredith’s blank pugilism threw only the most enfeebled of punches, hoping in vain to make something approximating an impact with mere volume. Yawn.
Best New Work
Luca Francesconi – Duende – The Dark Notes
Yes, yes, yes – i remarked how Francesconi had set the bar higher with respect to new concertos, but i think that remark extends to new pieces at the Proms full stop. A delirious, exhilarating piece, with a dazzlingly effective solo violin part, and which manages to be both welcoming and alien at the same time. Plenty of new music is content (indeed, probably aims) merely to be odd, or askew, or leftfield; Duende – The Dark Notes is genuinely new.
Michael Finnissy – Janne
Gary Carpenter – Dadaville
Christian Mason – Open to Infinity: a Grain of Sand
All good choices. It’s nice that Mason’s Open to Infinity, one of the smaller-scale new works, made such a strong impression; i agree with you, its dramatic and inventive range was considerable. Finnissy’s Janne was a definite high point—and hopefully dispelled far too many myths about new music in general and Finnissy’s music in particular—while Dadaville was one of the only premières in recent years to get the festival’s opening night off to a non-compromising start, even affording a glimpse into something transcendent along the way.
As for the rest, it may interest you to know that the most divisive piece was HK Gruber’s into the open …, which had you squealing with delight and spluttering with dismay in roughly equal measure, while B Tommy Andersson’s Pan was the work that left you most indifferently cold. i have to say, you’re a most discerning bunch.
Personally, i’ve been surprised how forgettable the majority of the 2015 Proms premières have been (most of my own highlights of this year’s festival were nothing to do with new music), but in addition to those already mentioned, i’ll be returning to Cheryl Frances-Hoad’s Homage to Tallis and Luke Bedford’s Instability; lyrical and inscrutable respectively, they’re both works that benefit from repeated listenings.